Public School Magazine, March 1902


“MAKE the retrospect short this year,” said the Editor. “Mr. Mudyard Oafling has his eye on us.” This must be my excuse for supplying merely the bricks of fact without any of the stucco and Virginian creeper of polished style or moral reflections.

Rugby, who had such a splendid record last season, did not do so well this year. They beat Uppingham again, but instead of another fifty point victory, only just managed to scrape home by eight points to six. Two Oxford Colleges, Corpus and University, ran up respectively twenty-four and thirty-four points against the School, to which Rugby replied with ten and eight. The Old Rugbeians won their match. The season ended, however, with a good win over Cheltenham by sixteen points to five.

Cheltenham did badly, losing seven and winning only one. Nearly all the matches were closely contested. The one victory was over the R.A.C., Cirencester.

Perhaps the most successful team of the year was Bedford Grammar School, captained by F. G. Brookes, who afterwards played for the South v. North, and was in the running for his International. Haileybury and Dulwich were beaten by over ten points, Merchant Taylors’ by more, while against St. Paul’s the School totted up the useful score of sixty points to nil, most of the team apparently scoring five times. The Old Bedfordians were one of the only teams to lower their colours.

Haileybury (captain, E. C. Hodges) were well served at half by two old colours, Smith and Willis. They lost to Bedford, but beat Tonbridge and Dulwich fairly easily. Their pack was a good one, and worked well together. The three-quarters were slow, and generally took some time to get going.

Dulwich had a poor season on the whole. The School matches produced good games, but the two most important, Bedford and Haileybury, were lost. Tonbridge won by ten points to six, but St. Paul’s and Merchant Taylors’ were defeated, the latter by thirty points. Gullick and Gregory, at centre three-quarters, played well in most of the matches.

Tonbridge, though not so good a team as last year, had a suceessful season, beating Dulwich, Sherborne, and St. Paul’s among the Schools, and also the Harlequins. Langdale played a good game at half, and the three-quarter line was consistently good,

Merchant Taylors’ and St. Paul’s fell on bad years. When the two Schools came to meet, an excellent game ended in a win for the latter, by a goal to a try. H. B. Smith was the best man in the Pauline pack.

Mill Hill did well in 1902, beating Merchant Taylors’ by nineteen points, and Bedford Modern by thirty-three to nil. The card stood at seven matches played, seven won. The School line was not crossed in any of the seven.

Of Socker-playing schools, Charterhouse had an excellent season, winning six, drawing three, and losing only one. At the time of writing, the great match v. Westminster has not yet been played. On form, as far as can be judged, Charterhouse should win, for Westminster have not been doing very well up to the present. A. T. Willet was the Westminster captain this year. The term began with two defeats, followed by two victories. After these came two more defeats, both bad ones. B.N.C., Oxford, was met and beaten, but New and Christ Church both won their matches. Draws with the Emeriti and Old Harrovians, and losses against West Kent, Old Felstedians, and Old Westminsters make up a card reading three won, two drawn, and eight lost.

Malvern started with two victories over S. Johnstone’s Eleven, and Brasenose College. Both the School matches, Radley and Shrewsbury, were won, but a strong team of Old Malvernians defeated the School team. The Malvern captain was Mellin, who, unfortunately, was injured in the first match, and had to retire from the active list. Powell, Chambers, and Page were useful members of the team.

Felsted played ten matches, won four, lost five, and drew one. The chief weakness of the team was the lack of a good inside forward, who, if he had been there, might have turned one or two of the defeats into victories, for all the matches were close.

Among the Rugger schools should, of course, have been mentioned Clifton, who had a very good season. Their most, important match, v. Cheltenham, resulted in an easy win by over thirty points.

The Sedbergh Fifteen did not do so well as usual this year. F. J. Milne brought a very strong team from Manchester, which beat them, and further defeats were registered by Yorkshire College, and Loretto. Giggleswick, however, were defeated by thirteen points to three. The team were strongest in the forward line.

The Leys had a good season. They defeated Corpus (Cambridge), Magdalen, and Peterhouse, but were beaten by Trinity Hall and King‘s. T. O. Pepper, the Leysian captain, was the best man in the team. He played for Old Leysians v. Cambridge University.

No mention is made in this brief retrospect of Winchester, Eton, or Harrow, who play games of their own, to the intellectual pressure of which the non-resident is unequal.



Published unsigned in Public School Magazine; entered by Wodehouse as “Football Retrospect” in Money Received for Literary Work.

Editor’s note:

Rudyard Kipling’s 1902 poem “The Islanders” emphasized the importance of training for war, and in contrast trivialized Wodehouse’s favorite sports with the lines:

Then ye returned to your trinkets; then ye contented your souls
With the flannelled fools at the wicket or the muddied oafs at the goals.

In this article, Wodehouse is reclaiming the dignity of football by consciously using the epithet ‘muddied oafs’ proudly, as he later did when Sean O’Casey called him “English literature’s performing flea” and he used Performing Flea as the title of his collected letters to Townend. He also transforms ‘Rudyard Kipling’ to ‘Mudyard Oafling’ in the opening paragraph, in case we didn’t get the reference to the poem.

John Dawson reminds me that Wodehouse also countered Kipling’s slur in an article in Sandow’s Magazine the same month, and Karen Shotting points out that the term appears in Wodehouse’s Punch poem “The Cricketer in Winter” and that either Wodehouse or a colleague on the Globe mentioned ‘Mudyard Oafling’ in a poem in the “By The Way” column titled “Brawn” on April 15, 1902.

“Flanneled fools” are mentioned in Wodehouse’s “Our Slack Youth” in Books of To-day..., August 1907.

Nick Townend finds more references in Wodehouse:

Cricket was not in his line—he was not one of your flannelled fools—and of all things in connection with the game he loathed umpiring most.

“The Odd Trick” (The Captain, August 1902)

…most Saturday afternoons would find Farnie leaving behind him the flannelled fools at their various wickets, and speeding out into the country on his bicycle…

A Prefect’s Uncle, ch. 5 (1903)

A puzzled young fellow at school
Said “I used to be called ‘Flannelled Fool,’
 So I started to work
 And they now say I shirk.
I’m inclined to describe it as ‘Cool.’ ”

Quoted by Tony Ring in his 1999 TWS convention talk “Limp Lavender Leather”

Neil Midkiff